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Be on the lookout for head lice lurking in Halloween costumes

Of all the creepy crawlers around during Halloween, there's one you probably haven't thought of - head lice.
(Source: WTOL)

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Some news you'll definitely want to hear before heading out to buy Halloween costumes this year.

It's fitting for this time of year to scare you with a story you need to be aware in case you or your kids find themselves coming home after trick-or-treating with more than just candy in their bags.

Of all the creepy crawlers around during Halloween, there's one you probably haven't thought of - head lice.

"It's usually a childhood actually nuisance problem. It's really not a health hazard. It's not a sign of poor hygiene. And it's not really spreading disease. It's really just more of a nuisance," said Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Cherie Sexton.

Doctors see a jump in head lice around this time of year and you might think it has to do with kids going back to school.

But, the biggest cause is Halloween costume shopping.

"We have a lot of people going into stores right now, trying on masks, trying on costumes and trying on wigs. And a lot of people don't give much thought into the fact that several people could've tried it on before them," said Sexton.

Think about it. Halloween stores have entire walls of masks and wigs for shoppers buying costumes.

But how many heads have those wigs and masks been on before going on yours?

Now that's spooky.

Shopper Jaclyn Willman was grossed out when told about the potential for lice in masks and costumes.

"I didn't really think it about it too much, when you go into the Halloween store and put different hats on and different masks on. Yeah, I didn't think about it," said Willman.

But it's something you need to think about.

"Most moms, dads and grandparents are just trying to get that right costume. Get it taken care of. Make sure it fits and get out the door," said Sexton.

So what do you do to make sure the critters don't find new homes on your little ones?

  • Put your costume or wig in a sealed plastic bag for 48 hours before wearing it. Any head lice will die within 24-48 hours.
  • Throw dryer friendly items in the dryer on high heat for 45 minutes before wearing them.
  • Wear a swim or wig cap to cover yours or your child's hair to create a barrier that will be tough for lice to cross.

And remember, the risk of infestation can last for up to a week.

"It can go up for seven days so if your child has been to a Halloween costume party, or they've been to a sleepover and somebody called and said there was somebody with lice there, make sure you check your child for the next seven days," said Sexton.

If you or your child does end up with lice, immediately get a treatment kit from the drug store or go to your doctor.

If you act fast or guard against it well, your trick or treater can have fun and not bring home more than just candy.

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